The day has finally arrived. Today marks the last day of a trip that started 3 years and 5 months ago when I set off from my home in Florida. During that time I managed to make my way up to the great state of Alaska, down to Mexico, through every county in Central America, into Colombia and then along the Andes mountain range until finally reaching Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world. After that it was up to Western Europe for more riding around the Netherlands, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom and finally Ireland. In all I managed to cross through 24 countries on 3 different continents racking up 28,454 miles (45,792 km).
Throughout my journey I went back and noted some of the more memorable highlights however these pages don’t even begin to capture the enormous range of feelings I had as a bicycle tourist traveling through so many different countries and environments. I can’t put into words what it’s like seeing killer whales leaping out of the water, hearing glaciers calving, seeing volcanoes erupt, riding through a city with more than 20 million people living in it, walking amongst thousands of penguins, staying in villages so remote that I was quite possibly the first foreigner they’ve ever seen or spoken to, standing in the ruins of entire towns where tens of thousands of people died in landslides/floods/volcanic eruptions, seeing small children begging for change, seeing a grizzly bear playing with her cubs, seeing entire villages forced to live in tiny shacks on the side of a raised dirt road because their homes are flooded, having three guys try to rob me of everything I own, being waved at dozens of times per day by people living in what I’d been told was one of the most dangerous countries in the world, having these same people stop and offer me food, water and places to sleep, riding a bicycle up and over one of the highest passes in the world, having someone from one of the poorest areas in the western hemisphere bring a plate of hot food to my tent just to make me feel welcome, desperately trying to hold my tent up from the inside during a storm in tornado alley, getting chased by hundreds of stupid dogs and nearly getting hypothermia. The list is endless.
So why am I stopping? It wasn’t that long ago that I’d planned on continuing my trip through Europe, Russia, the Middle East and North Africa for at least two more years. I had my route all planned out, a fancy spreadsheet showing over a dozen different considerations for traveling in each country, the funds to make it happen, a fully functional bicycle and physically I was (and still am) at 100%.
I’m stopping for two reasons. The first is that I had to see about a girl. As things tend to happen, sometimes when you least expect it, I just fell head over heels for this incredible woman whom I’ve known for many years but only just recently came to appreciate for the truly remarkable person that she is. There’s no way I can let her get away. When it came time to decide how I wanted to spend the coming years it was a very easy decision.
The second reason would most likely have had me thinking about stopping within a month or two. I’ve seen so many amazing things in the last few years and have a huge appreciation for this planet and everything on it. Seeing the damage we’ve caused day after day, mile after mile through every single country I’ve ridden through is incredibly disheartening. Some people might argue that it’s not that bad and blah, blah, blah. It is that bad. When you are riding a bicycle through it for nearly 30,000 miles you see it, you taste it, you smell it and you hear it. There’s absolutely zero doubt in my mind that we aren’t systematically wiping out every other living thing on this planet and the thought of seeing more of it for another two years isn’t that appealing.
Sure I could jump ahead to more “pristine” areas but if I wanted to skip over things I’d just go on a cruise. So for now it’s back to Florida where I’ll work on building a new, more subdued life because if I’ve learned anything from the past 3 years it’s that everything is connected. I know I don’t need a bunch of things to feel safe or successful. I’ve also seen what it takes to support the developed world and what effect this has on the people forced to live in areas being exploited for production material.
Dear old Koga 3.0 will be relegated to just shuttling me back and forth from the grocery store instead of through strange and exotic lands.
To all my family, friends, admirers, supporters, teachers, hosts and would-be robbers: truly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for making me a better person. To all the dogs: suck it.